Garden Calendar - January Edibles

Published on January 4th 2020
onion shallots and garlic in a basket
I hope that January marks the beginning of a very productive gardening year for you!
It's a time to plan by buying seeds and ordering plants and bulbs. Days will soon be longer, and there is even the excitement of a little sowing and planting.

Homegrown food

  • Buy seed potatoes and set them up to shoot (‘chitting’).
  • Early potato varieties such as ‘Rocket’ will benefit, but later varieties will yield better too! Chitting encourages new growth before planting so that your spuds hit the ground running.
  • If you have room for only one potato variety, I recommend growing ‘Charlotte’.
Seed potatoes chitting on a windowsill
Seed potatoes chitting on a windowsill
  • Plant shallots. They prefer well-manured soil that you haven't grown shallots, leeks or onions in for several years.
  • Shallots are frost hardy so should be planted as early as possible.
  • Buy onion sets but delay planting outside until warmer - typically in early March. Planting too early results in them producing flower heads ('bolting'). However, you can get them started now by planting in cell trays to transplant out later.
Onions in tray modules
Onions in tray modules
  • Time to plan which vegetables you are going to grow this year! The 2020 seed packets will be on display now, so why not try something new.
Cover a piece of your plot to warm the soil for early sowing
  • Cover a piece of well-dug ground to trap in warmth. You can then sow early carrots, parsnips, peas and other vegetables when the soil warms up. Use clear polythene and lay it flat on the ground. Weigh down the edges to stop it from blowing away.
  • Dig garden lime into the areas where you are planning to grow cabbages, sprouts, etc. to help combat clubroot disease. Aim for pH 7.5. Some resistant varieties such as Cabbage F1 Kilazol are now available.
  • Plant fruit trees, bushes, canes and rhubarb.
  • Prune apples and pear trees.
  • Don't prune apples and pears if they are fan, cordon or espalier trained as these should be done when in leaf in summer.
A man pruning a fruit tree
Pruning a dormant apple tree
  • Prune grapevines, blackcurrants, red currants, white currants, blackberries, tayberries, gooseberries and loganberries.
  • Cover established rhubarb crowns with manure and a rhubarb forcing pot (or old chimney) to produce early, tender young stems.
  • Dig a trench ready for runner beans and fill the bottom with well-rotted compost or farmyard manure.
  • Cover strawberries with cloches to begin to force an early crop.
Old tent cloches
  • If you are itching to get growing this year’s veg, sow turnips, lettuce, stump rooted carrots, early cabbage, cauliflower and spinach in trays on the windowsill. These could be planted out in February.
  • Pick yellowing leaves off sprouts and other Brassicas. They may harbour downy mildew and other diseases if left. Sprouts and purple sprouting may need staking.
  • Keep a watch out for pigeon damage during cold periods and cover your crops with netting as soon as any appears.
  • Sow sprouting seeds on your windowsill for fresh, tasty salad or sandwich fillings in 15-20 days!
Sweet corn shoots

Greenhouse, conservatory or windowsill

  • Sow Ailsa Craig onion seed into cell packs for planting out after the last frost.
  • Wash any glass to allow the maximum amount of light to enter. By using a sterilant such as Jeyes Fluid, you will also kill any overwintering pests such as red spider mite and their eggs.
Strawberries being forced in a greenhouse
  • Move potted and container-grown strawberries inside to begin forcing for really early crops. They should have experienced enough cold outside by now to break dormancy.

Bits and pieces

  • Keep citrus plants cool and relatively dry unless they are actively growing. If they are, then increase watering and use a citrus winter feed.
  • Clean and disinfect plant trays and pots to prevent carryover of disease from one year to the next. Bamboo canes can harbour pests inside their hollow centres (especially red spider mites) so treat or bin them.
Compost in a bin will benefit from turning
  • Turn and mix your compost heap. Add more Garotta Compost Maker and make sure that it is moist throughout the whole pile. Shred wrapping paper and incorporate it into your compost heap.
  • Empty water butts and give them a thorough clean. Simple fungal organisms can multiply and kill young seedlings if you don't ensure that the water is clean.
  • Use bubble wrap to protect plant containers against frost and wind damage. Frost susceptible plants should be protected with lightweight horticultural fleece. The fine webbing allows the plant to breathe and lets in light.
Bubble wrapped plants

Soils, mulching, weed control, etc.

  • Check your soil pH. Testing kits are widely available from garden centres and nurseries. For most plants, adding garden lime to the soil will give better results. For lime-hating plants, such as blueberries, it may be necessary to add sulphur chips to make the soil more acidic.
  • Pull out weeds that germinated last autumn. Speedwell, herb robert and cleavers or goosegrass are the most common and will make rapid growth as days lengthen.
Cleaver seedlings germinate even in winter
  • Apply bark mulch to areas between plants that are free of weeds and thoroughly moistened by winter rain. This will trap the moisture in and keep the weeds down in summer.
  • When digging clay soil, mix in Vitax Clay Breaker and well-rotted organic matter to improve the soil structure to make it easier to cultivate in future.
  • Gather and remove hibernating snails from under plants and flat stones to reduce their impact on your plants later.
Look for snails hiding in crevices

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